Coast Guard's example could aid agency communications integration efforts

Guard maintains secure military Web sites

Editor's note: This story was modified after its original publication to clarify certain points. 

As government organizations adopt integrated communications networks, the Coast Guard's success in its own undertaking could serve as a potential example, according to Adm. Thad Allen, the Guard's commandant.

Allen, speaking at the Milcom conference in Boston, said the service is responsible for maintaining secure Web sites, which requires flexibility and interoperable security that could have broader applications across larger domains. The Coast Guard faces some of the same issues as military branches, but is part of the Homeland Security Department.

Allen, who described himself as “bureaucratically multilingual,” said the Coast Guard’s successful convergence of multi-layered computer networks and social-media approach hinges on leadership’s understanding of how technology works.

“Our largest challenge is the ability to talk about these issues with senior military leaders and political leaders and have them understand the technology," Allen said. How to accomplish the convergence becomes obvious once that understanding is reached, he added. 

The Coast Guard’s multi-layered posture requires a multidimensional approach that meets the modern needs of converged forces, Allen said.

There has been a “fundamental change in the social atmosphere as real as the fundamental climate change in the Earth’s atmosphere," he said. Agencies have three choices to react to these changes: suffer, adapt or manage, Allen said.

Being upfront about challenges in convergence is key to starting the necessary cultural shift, Allen said. The more transparent and visible information is, the more that will breed self-correcting behavior across an organization, he said.

That shift can be self-fulfilling if approached correctly, he said, adding, “Adaptation in the social environment will encourage adaptation in the political environment.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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